Notes from KM Legal Europe January 2015

I attended KM Legal Europe last week in Amsterdam; I enjoyed the conference very much. I got to talk with many of the speakers and attendees and learn more about what the law firms and corporate legal departments in Europe are doing in the KM space. I was impressed by their thoughtfulness and recognition of the fact that KM can bring them efficiencies and effectiveness as well as innovations and competitive advantage. They were a passionate group of practitioners.

While KM in law tends to focus on documented knowledge because of the nature of the sector and the need to track matters and precedents, there were discussions of lessons learned and sharing tacit knowledge too.

One of the things that (pleasantly) surprised me, was the discussion of automated document creation, when I have spoken with other organizations (not just law firms) about this technology they haven’t even known what it was, so to sit in a room where many were enthusiastic users was refreshing.

Other things that I found refreshing were the discussion of continuous improvement, six sigma, and process re-engineering. Again, all things that utilize an organization’s knowledge and especially, at least in my mind, the use of lessons learned processes and activities. This probably deserves its own blog post, as the participants were quite interested in this area and unfortunately we ran out of time.

One final thing that I found gratifying was the group’s willingness to not only share and learn from each other, but the interest in my experience working in other industries and sectors. They seemed to recognize that KM is KM and that they were behind many other sectors, so there were many things that they could learn from those who have gone before them.

All-in-all a wonderful few days with wonderful people, so glad I was able to take part.

Published: Designing a Successful KM Strategy

Advance copies of our book, Designing a Successful KM Strategy are now available from our publisher, Information Today, Inc.

It will officially be published in mid-January, so if you buy it before that, you get 40% of the regular price.


I did a workshop based on the book at KM World, on Nov 4th, that was well received, as well as a couple of book signings–it was great to talk to everyone about the book and how it can help them regardless of whether they are just starting with KM or at a point where they are re-evaluating their strategy after implementing KM for a few years.

Information Today has also made a chapter available for preview, you can access it here

Nick (my co-author) also has some helpful links up over on his blog at

I hope you enjoy it. Be sure to get in touch if you have any comments or questions.

(Left to right) Ian Thorpe, Stephanie Barnes, Patti Anklam, Connie Crosby at KM World book signing for, "Designing a Successful KM Strategy"
(Left to right) Ian Thorpe, Stephanie Barnes, Patti Anklam, Connie Crosby at KM World book signing for, “Designing a Successful KM Strategy”


Designing a Successful KM Strategy

I guess I have been busy, it’s been 6 months since my last post. One of the things that I have been busy with is finishing the book that I have co-authored with my Knoco colleague, Nick Milton.


Nick and I have written and book called, “Designing a Successful KM Strategy,” it’s being published by Information Today, Inc. Advance copies will be available at KM World, where I will be doing a workshop based on the book (Workshop W4) and a book signing.

I’ll post a link to their website once it’s available for order.

Also, I’m doing a second workshop at KM World called, “W14: Sparking Innovation: Creative KM,” in case any of you are interested in that.

Webinars–Aligning People, Process and Technology in Knowledge Management

The following is a list of webinars that I presented over the last couple of months, with a link (click on the name of the webinar) to the recording. The webinars are based on my Ark Group Report, from May 2011, Aligning People, Process and Technology in Knowledge Management. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Date Title Abstract
June 4, 2013 KM Technologies There are many types of technologies that can be used to support a KM program; many of them overlap which makes it difficult to pick the right one. Case studies of organizations that picked both the right and wrong technology will be discussed.
June 18, 2013 Knowledge Management Risks The common risks encountered in implementing a knowledge management program and what can be done to mitigate them are discussed. Case studies of organizations that both ignored and paid attention to the risks will be examined.
July 2, 2013 Aligning KM with Business The key to success with technology is taking a balanced approach, considering people, process, and technology. By understanding people, and processes, the appropriate supporting technology can be selected and implemented. Case studies of organizations that both ignored and paid attention to the alignment of KM and the organization will be examined.
July 23, 2013 KM Roadmap Process The process for determining supporting knowledge management technology is outlined in this webinar. The steps start with collecting organizational requirements and move through analyzing and resolving these to select the technology. Then moving on to designing and developing the technology platform, and testing the actual implementation. Finally, there is a discussion of the use and evolution the technology platform.
July 30, 2013 Requirements for KM Success What are the requirements for KM success? Considering people, process and technology are key as is the roadmap process discussed in the fourth webinar, but what else is a vital part of success? Case studies of organizations that both ignored and paid attention to the requirements for success will be examined.

ColaLife Documentary

I will write more about this later, but I wanted to get some initial thoughts down tonight, while it’s fresh in my memory.

I was lucky enough to be invited by a friend to attend a University of Waterloo Alumni event this evening. At the event they were screening the Canadian premiere of ColaLife a documentary about an organization that is “is working in developing countries to bring Coca-Cola, its bottlers and others together to save children’s lives by opening the distribution channels which Coca-Cola uses, to enable ‘social products’ such as oral rehydration salts and zinc supplements to use similar routes. We began with the concept of using space in Coca-Cola crates – but have extended into a range of innovations, some based on Coca-Cola’s expertise and networks – but many based on questioning the status quo.” (This comes from their webpage, here

It was a fantastic story about trying to save the lives of children, but for me it was also a story of creativity, innovation, and knowledge management and design thinking. Why? Because ColaLife wasn’t afraid to think outside of the box, to say who is getting their products into remote regions in Zambia and how are they doing it? CocaCola, that’s who. How? Shopkeepers want to carry their product because they can make money selling it, so they transport it “the last mile” from a distribution centre to their shops. (Knowledge management–sharing knowledge/best practices from CocaCola.)

ColaLife then designed their packaging to fit in the space between the tops of the bottles in the case, so that they can be packaged together. They also had some innovations in how the oral hydration salts and zinc were packaged to make it easier to mix and taste better for the children who had to take it (design, creativity, and innovation).

What you also need to know is that it took 20+ years to get this made. Why did it take so long? It needed social media to get the word out and get the right parties involved, that’s why. (Knowledge management, and innovation).

When I heard the 20 years and social media part I thought: serendipity, everything coming together at the right time at the right place. But what if you could make “serendipity” happen more often? What if by taking a more purposeful approach to creativity, innovation, and KM you could help your organizations and all organizations generally, make connections quicker? Wouldn’t that be a good thing?

What are you doing to make that happen?

Joyful Knowledge Management

Joyful knowledge management.

Yes, knowledge management is joyful, at least it is to me.

I enjoy it when I can find what I’m looking for: the answer to the question, the person who has done a project before and can share her/his experience and lessons learned with me. I enjoy pulling together the pieces to make a new picture, creating new pieces where necessary.

In fact, I think the creating is the best part, whether we’re talking about something that is completely new, something that is new to the organization, or something that is an improvement on something that has been done before (partly new).

How do we do that creating?

We can take a left-brained approach and use knowledge management activities, like expertise location systems, communities of practice, enterprise content management–processes and technology to help us find things that may be similar or provide a piece of the puzzle, activities that help make new/different connections.

We can take a right-brained approach and create space for knowledge creation activities like painting, drawing, photography, playing foosball, running, walking, swimming, playing squash. Activities that let us do something new, different, unexpected. Activities that create the space for us to make different connections and have different experiences rather than the “same old thing”.

I revel in the joy of finding a solution to a problem; I especially revel in it if it’s something new, different, unique. Something that someone else says, “wow, I’ve never thought of it that way before” or “I’ve been trying to figure that out for ages”.

I find things that I learn painting, helps me in my consulting, whether it’s to remind me of the importance of balance or giving things the time and space to develop into what they’re going to be.

This is joy, balanced, right-side, left-side, joy.

Joy with watermark sm

Knowledge by Design

I have been doing some more research, reading, and thinking about this creativity-innovation-knowledge management area and am coming to the realization that to a certain extent KM by design is what I’ve been doing all along, I’m just becoming more aware of it and kicking it up a notch.

Let me explain…

What I have been doing is knowledge (management) by design, and I say that because, I’ve always believed in looking at what knowledge activities were need to meet the needs of the organization  I’ve never said, “you need xyz technology, or you need a lessons learned process,” without understanding what the organization was trying to achieve with knowledge. I’ve always focused on the left-brain activities, the process, the activities, the technology, the information architecture, etc.

What I’m incorporating now is more right-brain thinking, which takes me and my knowledge management consulting into the innovation and creativity arena and making space for knowledge creation–ba, to use the term made familiar in Nonaka’s knowledge management work and writing.

How am I going to do that? Through having people do right-brain activities in the workshops that I run, but also by working with organizations to include more of these kinds of activities in their daily activities.

Opening up space for knowledge creation and innovation leads to enhanced productivity, collaboration, employee engagement, thought leadership, and sense of community.

This isn’t to the exclusion of lessons learned, and information architecture, etc. it’s a balancing out of both sides of the brain: the detailed, tactical with the strategic, problem solving.

Knowledge by Design.

KM in Law Firms: compare and contrast

(this is a slightly longer version of an article that I published in the Knoco March 2013 newsletter, one of 5 flavours of KM that were discussed)

In many law firms knowledge management starts in the IT department, and in a few cases, the library and like in many other organizations is focused on document management and technology. Also in common with other organizations law firms are dealing with pressure to reduce costs, be more efficient and effective for their clients, address issues of an aging workforce, and the technology demands of freshly minted lawyers who expect near instant access to knowledge.

There are also differences in KM inside a law firm. While in many organizations KM focuses on not just access to information/knowledge but on learning from mistakes, e.g. after action reviews and lessons learned processes and databases, this seems almost totally absent in law firms.

As I prepared to write this article, I wondered if I had just been missing something because of my limited exposure to KM in law firms. Maybe there really was a learning focus that I was missing out on; but in the research scan I did to supplement my experience, I didn’t find what I was looking for.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is KM being done in law firms, but it focuses on documented knowledge. A fine activity, and definitely about connecting people to the knowledge they need to do their jobs, but not specifically learning focused and not focused on innovation as is often the case in other organizations.

It seems lawyers see knowledge management as a way to:

  • Give the firm a competitive advantage since the firm’s know-how becomes more easily accessible
  • Increase productivity: lawyers don’t waste time searching for information
  • Improve practice support by fostering collaboration
  • Speed response time to client requests
  • Provide an on-ramp for junior lawyers to get up to (billable) speed more quickly
  • Help integrate the “practice of law” and the “business of law”[1]

Now, I have done work with Steven Lastres, the author of this work I’ve just cited, and have the highest regard for what he is doing in his firm, which is leading the way for KM in law firms, but by not including the learning aspect of KM it seems to me that law firms are missing something.

One of the presentations that I attended at KM World 2012 was Eric Hunter’s, “Innovation, Change Management, & Business Optimization.” Eric Hunter is another leader in the law firm KM sector. What they are doing at his firm is moving towards that learning objective through collaboration and social technologies[2].

If law firms are lagging behind other organizations, the question that comes to my mind is why? In my experience law firms are conservative and risk adverse. They believe that only a lawyer understands their business, which has resulted in people with a CKO (Chief Knowledge Officer) type title at law firms being lawyers, and the main people on their teams are other lawyers and librarians. This lack of diversity on their teams and lack KM specialists specifically, I believe, has led to the focus on documented knowledge.

There is a shift happening, however. Law firms are starting to look outside their industry to see what lessons they can learn from other industries and from KM specialists. I have been doing a series of workshops and webinars for law librarians. The participants in these sessions have been engaged and interested to learn the lessons that I have to share from my experience in other industries. And I have been glad to share my experience and let them know that they are not alone, that the challenges they face are the same challenges that any KM leader faces; somehow there’s comfort in that knowledge.

Note: Connie Crosby and I have also just launched a KM Strategy assessment service for law firms, feel free to get in touch if you’re interested in learning more.

[1] Lastres, Steven, “Knowledge Management in Law Libraries: The Role for Legal Information Professionals” presentation at CALL ACBD Conference, from, February 28, 2013.

[2] Hunter, Eric, “Law Firms of the Future: Driving Intranet Evolution with Google+”  from on February 28, 2013.

What are the outcomes of taking a creative approach to knowledge management?

I have been talking a bit lately about the intersection of KM and creativity, I had a coaching/workshop session yesterday that helped me focus on that intersection and start to figure it out. I am very excited about this activity, and can honestly say this is the most excited about KM that I have been in my 14 years of actively doing it. I am still working on scoping it out and incorporating it into my services but in the meantime I will blog about what I’m figuring out.

Adding creativity to KM solves an employee engagement problem.

Adding creativity to KM results in the following outcomes:

  • innovation
  • productivity enhancements
  • collaboration
  • engaged employees (happy employees)
  • thought leadership
  • patents (when used in R&D)
  • decreased cycle/process times
  • improvements to work-life balance
  • a sense of community among stakeholders

All of these things give your organization a competitive advantage with customers/clients and in attracting and keeping staff.

I’m excited, are you?

Agile and Knowledge Management, part 2

A couple of days ago I posted about Agile and KM, this is a part 2 to that post and is a result of a discussion I had at a meeting the day after the presentation.

In the meeting we were talking about the business case for KM and how to best get started once you have some basic level of approval and support, which is to move on to a pilot stage.

Being successful in KM is continually doing this agile cycle: business case, pilot, business case, pilot, each one builds on the success of the previous one, each one is a small, manageable piece of the KM puzzle. Each one matures the people, process, and technology a little bit more. You keep going until the whole organization has adopted KM as a regular and necessary part of its activities and operations and then you continue to evolve and improve your KM activities. While you’re doing all those business cases and pilots, you’re integrating those 10 lessons into the organization’s behaviour.